Trona Bloody Trona

Trona Bloody Trona is a book that was recently published about the 1970 strike. Linda Monroe emailed me and told me about it. ITrona Bloody Tronaf you are from Trona you should read this book.

I will never think of Trona in the same way again. Kerr McGee changed Trona. The 1970 strike changed Trona. Time changed Trona. My memories of Trona are childhood memories of wonderful teachers, Austin Hall, the club house, the sables and the fish pond at the railway office. I really don’t want the images of Trona this book has put into my head.

In 1970 I was working in San Bernardino and apparently I was so busy living my own life that I was barley aware of the strike in Trona. I can remember visiting my parents in Trona a short while after the strike was over. We sat in my mothers kitchen on Argus Ave. and I listened to them and my brothers talk about the things that happened during the strike. Some of the stories they told were different versions of the stories Paul Abrams tells about in his book. They were different versions of the stories that were on the news during the strike.

One of the stories we talked about while sitting at my mother’s kitchen was the fire at Zimmerman’s Lumber. I had forgotten all about the fire until recently and was doing research for a story I wanted to write about the stables. Someone I asked about the stables mentioned a fire in the barn. I wrote to Mary Bermani to ask her what she knew about the fire. Well, that was the wrong thing for me to do. Her memories were about the fire I had forgotten. The fire that changed her father’s and her families lives.

There were many families that lost all they had before the strike was over in spite of what this book implies. The strikers were sold out by their union and all I can say is that if corporations were people Kerr-McGee would have died and gone to hell.

I know that most of those that were involved have forgiven and forgotten. That is the way Trona people are. I also know that there will be some with long memories that will never forget or forgive. I am a big believer that forgiveness is very important but I also know that it is something that I often find hard to do.

I see Paul Henry Abram as the hero he makes himself out to be in this book. He wrote a good book.  I enjoyed reading it. My only regret is that it may tear a scab off a wound that that will never totally heal.

This entry was posted in Book Review, Trona History on by .

About David L Stevens

David has been the creator and maintainer of Trona on the Web since 1996. He has been creating websites since the beginning of the World Wide Web. He is not the best person to be the webmaster for a Trona Website but someone needs to do it and Doug Polly isn't with us any longer. David worked in maintenance for the San Bernardino City Schools, retired from Honeywell, worked in IT for a while and is now working as a school bus driver.

12 thoughts on “Trona Bloody Trona

  1. Lisa

    I still remember when Kerr McGee didnt want the town to watch the movie Silkwood. So they closed down the theater. I read the book Kerr McGee gave my father on the anniversary of the company. The book was huge & had one sentence about Karen Silkwood. Nothing they did surprised me.

  2. Wayne Erwin

    I also grew up in the Valley, actually I lived in Argus but move away before the 1970 strike. I just finished reading the book and my impression is it reads more like a docudrama or fiction than historical reference. I personally knew a few of the people mentions in the book and it was interesting to read about them. If I did have to take exception to Paul Henry Abram’s weather references. I do recall it being hot in Trona but not as hot as he makes it out to be, particularly in the spring months. One other exception I took was his description of being rescued from Jawbone Canyon. His automobile breaks down and he hikes to Jawbone. After getting there he feels his life is in danger and calls Dale Moses over in Trona to come to his aid. Dale tells Mr. Abram to hold tight and he’ll be there shortly in his dune buggy and 30 minutes later Dale shows up. Dale would have had to been traveling about 80 mph or more across the desert to do that trip in 1/2 hour. These are only two examples. There are others regarding some legal procedures but you can discover those for yourself.

    1. David L. Stevens


      When reading a story of events that were recalled from some 40 years ago you need to cut the writer some slack as long as the essence of the story is correct.

      An example I can give was when I was in kindergarten one of our art projects was making a clay piggy bank. I was really proud of mine and my mother put it away for safe keeping. When I asked to see it years later my mother would always make excuses as to why she couldn’t get it out just then. Finally in my senior year I insisted that she show it to me.

      I was expecting it to be pretty much like the clay piggy banks they sold in the store. That is how I remembered it. In reality it was pretty much just a blob of clay with some paint on it and a slot on top. For all those years my mother hid from me the fact that I wasn’t a child prodigy piggy bank maker. I was a bit shocked and disappointed but it wasn’t the crushing blow my mother may have imagined. I had remembered the essence of the event just not the fine details.

      I think that it far more important to remember that the story of the strike had at least two sides. Paul told his story but keep in mind there are people that burn with anger when they try to read his book. For me, I wish the Longshoremen and Kerr Mcgee had stayed away from my little town.

  3. Steve Slater

    I am anxious to read the book myself, mostly to refresh my memories but to also get another viewpoint of the strike since I had a very limited and singular view. My mother worked in the Shipping Office at the Trona Plant during the strike and chose to stay inside the Plant to help ship product since she had some heavy equipment experience from her time building aircraft during WWII. I was 13 at the time and went to stay with friends in Argus; during that time a bomb was set off at our house in Pioneer Point and the neighbor across the street was nearly killed by shots fired through his living room window. I visited Trona as recently as 2010 and the bomb damage is still visible at our old house. It was a vicious strike and there was quite a bit of mis- and non-communication at that time … it all depended on who was telling the story. Trona was a great place to grow up and live “back in the day” but there is so little of it left now that it appears to be slowly evolving into another ghost town in the Mojave desert.

    1. debra

      I’m working out here now and I’m curious to know how many of these burned houses were a part of all this, I thought it was odd there are so many houses that appeared to have burned. If you don’t mind, could you on tell me which house was the bomb put in? I find the history I’m hearing to be interesting, sad, scarey, and curious. I had no idea of such a history!

      1. Paul Henry Abram

        I do not know why I just received this in my e-mail, but here goes. The union strikers never burned down anyone’s house, nor did they ever bomb one. I was the lawyer throughouth the 1970 strike for the 750 strikers and their families. A truthful and full account is set forth in my book Trona, Bloody Trona – read parts of it at – read it before you believe any more rubbish about burning down houses. That all occured many years after the strike – vandalism and insurance fires.

        Paul Henry Abram

  4. Paul Henry Abram

    David – I sometimes wonder the same things. I only know that I played the role that best served my clients and that was the only way I knew how to do it. What I termed the “night of Terror” in the book was just that – and I fought back, in every legal way I knew how. I believe I played as rough as the cops and thugs called Wackenhutts did and will never regret any part of it. I loved the fact that many, like Doug Polly as an example, remained some of my closest friends for years and came often to my home in Big Bear Lake. I will always have fond memories of my clients – the working class heros of Trona.

  5. Phoebe

    Charrlette and Steven are both right.

    There were too many errors and exaggerations to pin point, but certainly the community was built by and supported by the local industries and salaries and schools were better than average. I hasten to mention that among the plant entities were both a clinic and a hospital which served the community where both industrial or highway injuries could be extremely serious.

    Trona folks were special in my mind. Just think how they not only supported the youth will all the youth programs, but also each indivdually supported each other, be it stranded on the highway, off into the desert, or picking up a child at school.

    David, you said it so well, so now, we know, professional legal advice surely would have help moderate the dispute and distruption of personal lives. Although I do not remember all the adverse events he descibes, I do recall his cutesy court room behavior.

    As I sat in the Commnity church, attending a funeral, I noted that the roses on the casket were Trona. The lovely blooms were the hardy, gracious folks and the thorns the physical environment. I say and remember, Trona, beautiful Trona.

  6. Paul Henry Abram

    Dear Ms. Biggs – I will try one last time – could you please be specific as to what parts of my book are BS so that I may address your concerns. Trust me, with the help of Margaret Brush who provided me with every article ever written about the strike, and my own recollection – remember I was there – the book is as accurate as the passage of time permits. You do me and the memory of those I have written about a great disservice when you state the contents are BS without providing me with specifics so that I may address them. Thank you for taking the time to read my account – now please take a few moments and state exactly what you are calling BS – thanks!


    1. David Stevens

      Ms. Biggs was there too, as was my father and two brothers. Not everyone remembers the strike the same way. It is a very different thing to grow up in Trona and to live most of your life there and to see family and friends turn against each other than to be someone who rides in on their white horse (a Mustang) and play hero for a few months and then leave without feeling the pain and bitterness that was left behind. That strike tore that town apart more than anything in its one hundred year history. My best friend’s father-in-law had his store burned down a year after the strike was over. It changed his life and the life of his family forever.

      Paul, I have to wonder that if you had stuck to your roll of being a lawyer and providing good legal advice rather than being caught up with the idea of being a hippie-rebel-freedom-fighter if you might have done a lot more good even if you didn’t have as much fun.

      I have very mixed feelings because I am a union member and I am very pro union. I also at times get very unrealistic notions about what is and isn’t possible. I have friends and family on both sides. I grew up with Charlotte Reeves and I respect her opinion.

      I want the labor movement in the USA to be successful but the strike in Trona and the strike in Boron a few years later accomplished nothing and turned many union and nonunion people against unions forever. It also left some people wondering what could cause such intense hatefulness.

  7. Charlotte Reeves Biggs

    This evening I finished reading “Trona, Bloody Trona” and although some of the events are true, Paul Abram’s recollection is much different from mine. In fact, so different that I felt like I was wading in 2 feet of BS when reading about some of the events. Of course, he didn’t mention that Karen Mackey poured hot coffee down my back when I crossed the picket line to go home and have lunch with my children. Nor did he mention the attack on the female employees who were leaving work one evening. I saw one of my co-workers get her blouse ripped off and I was shoved, but I fought back. Diana Hall had no idea that I was capable of placing her in a headlock (which I did), nor did she anticipate that I would bite her. I notice that he didn’t mention the fires that some of the union guys set. I saw a lifetime of work destroyed as I watched Ralph Henderson’s garage burn to the ground.

    He didn’t mention that fathers who were working in the plant who had sons in the union were given special consideration in that BB’s weren’t shot through their windows and rocks were not thrown at their houses. I even carried hemmoroid cream to Harvey Crandall, Sr., which was given to me by his daughter-in-law. My former husband donated $50 to the strike fund, but after the coffee was poured down my back, he decided not to contribute anything else. There were no winners in the strike – not the union and not Kerr-McGee. The biggest loser was Trona. Look what’s happened to her now. After spending my first 27 years in Trona, I was so embittered and disheartened by the strike that I left on August 22, 1970. It was the best gift I ever gave myself.


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